KAMPALA – A select task force of the parliamentary Committee on Commission, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (COSASE) investigating circumstances under which departed Asians properties that were fully compensated for by government ended up in hands of individuals and companies has discovered that beleaguered Executive Secretary George William Bizibu has not been formally appointed.
MPs plan to put Finance Minister Mr Matia Kasajia to task to explain why Mr. Bizibu, who has had a torrid time explaining audit queries that have marred operations of the government agency is working without a formal appointment as Executive Secretary of the Departed Asians Property Custodian Board (DAPCB
“Mr Bizibu is in office illegally,” an MP said on Thursday.
“We need the Finance Minister to explain this anomaly”.
Minister Kasaija and Mr Bizibu, are said to hail from the same area, and are suspected to have a political connection.
Mr Kasaija doubles as both the DAPCB Board Chairman as well as the Finance Minister, a matter that has rattled the MPs.
The Parliamentary inquiry started after the Board chaired by Mr Kasaija claims unspecified amount of money was paid to undisclosed claimants for properties which were sold by the Custodian Board prior to receiving repossession claims by original owners.
The MPs have challenged the Custodian Board to publish a list of the beneficiaries to confirm whether they did not pay ghost claimants.
While appearing before COSASE last week, Mr Bizibu, admitted the accountability queries when questioned by MPs. During the interface with the MPs, Mr Bizibu who has been at the helm of the DAPCB for about two years, said the board does not have information on the current ownership of several plots despite the records indicating that they were compensated by the government.
However, the MPs accused Mr Bizibu of trying to trying to cover up senior government officials accused of grabbing the Asian properties.
The composition of the board has become a matter of public scrutiny. The Board members include Finance Minister Matia Kasaija, Lands Minister Betty Amongi, Attorney General William Byaruhanga, State Minister for Local Government Jenifer Namuyangu, State Minister for Industry and Cooperatives, Mr Michael Werikhe, Gen Salim Saleh who is a “co-opted member”.
According to Section 5 (1) of the Assets of Departed Asians Act mandates the board to sit at least once every month.
However, it has emerged that failure by the board members to meet has over the years facilitated a lot of fraud at DAPCB where hundreds of properties have been stolen. An Auditor General’s report has raised accountability queries at the Custodian Board such as theft of public funds through fictitious compensations of up to Shs1.7b, double allocation of properties, forged land titles, sale of assets without proper valuation, missing documents among other illegalities.
The February 2011-March 2016 report of the Auditor General, Mr John Muwanga, revealed that the Board chaired by the Finance Minister failed to maintain proper books of account and annual financial statements were not prepared. In the result, it took Auditor General 15 years to audit the Custodian Board activities.
In the process, billions of shillings in tax payers’ money was misappropriated. The Auditor General’s report for instance, shows that Shs50.2m cash was not banked and lacked accountability documents at the time of audit. Another Shs15.2m was receipted as cash received but could not be traced in the bank statement. Also about Shs500m was spent directly from the collection account without authority of the Board.
“It was also noted that Shs292.3m was withdrawn from the bank without explanation as to the nature and purpose of the payments… these actions are not in accordance with best practices in financial management… [inquiry into the use of these funds should be instituted],” the AG report reads in part.
At the same several properties in prime areas of Kampala that are in the records of DAPCB were dubiously acquired or registered in the names of other people. The Auditor General inspected 139 properties in Jinja Municipal Council and found that the Board did appoint qualified professionals to value the properties.
There was also no complete list of tenants and properties. The AG also discovered cases of duplicated allocation of properties, abandoned properties, irregular disposal of properties, arrears of ground rent and unscrupulous property managers. He says these irregularities have resulted into the loss of government properties.
Other properties in prime areas of Kampala that are in the records of DAPCB but dubiously acquired or registered in the names of other people include; Plot 20 Parliament Avenue; Plot 3 Market Street; Plots 6, 8, 10 and 12 Namirembe Road; Plot 14 A George Street; and Plot 7 Bombo road.